Tuesday, February 11, 2020

First Look: The Fattened Caf Pop-Up Serves Filipino Fare at Earthbound Beer

Posted By on Tue, Feb 11, 2020 at 6:04 AM

click to enlarge Darren Young serves a customer from behind the counter. - COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • Darren Young serves a customer from behind the counter.

With the recent debut of the Fattened Caf, St. Louisans now have a new local destination for flavorful and authentic Filipino fare.

The pop-up restaurant operates once a month inside Earthbound Beer (2724 Cherokee Street, 314-769-9676) on Cherokee Street. The very limited engagement means planning ahead is imperative to get your hands on the concept's riffs on Filipino street food. The Fattened Caf's residency at Earthbound kicked off late last year and you can catch it on the last Friday of every month for the rest of 2020.

What started as a hobby for Los Angeles transplants Darren Young and Charlene Lopez-Young has now blossomed into a delicious and budding side hustle. Lopez-Young, who was born in L.A., moved to the Philippines when she was just two-years-old and would spend most of her childhood there.



“Living there formed a lot of my childhood and we still visit every couple years," Lopez-Young says.

Her heritage and family recipes inspired the idea for the Fattened Caf, but it’s her Young's love of cooking and experimenting that has made the business an overnight sensation. The husband-and-wife team say that relocating to St. Louis was something of a food culture shock — but one they've now successfully navigated.

“Coming from L.A., we didn't know what real southern barbecue was, or St. Louis style ribs; my knowledge started and ended at Chili's baby-back ribs," 
Young says with a grin.

click to enlarge Charlene Lopez-Young behind the Fattened Caf counter at Earthbound. - COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • Charlene Lopez-Young behind the Fattened Caf counter at Earthbound.

Today Young says he has mastered grilling techniques, smoking meat and perfecting his craft. “I got really into barbecue," he says, adding that he slowly improved at making Filipino-style 'cue under the watchful eye of his wife.

His cooking became so popular among their friends that people would buy meat and ask Young to prepare it for parties and events. “Our friends would always tell us we needed to sell our food, and before we knew it, our business was born,” Lopez-Young recalls.

The Fattened Caf first came on the St. Louis food scene at the Tower Grove Farmers' Market and through various pop-ups in south city. The couple have always been enthusiastic about pop-ups and hope to continue doing them in addition to their residency at Earthbound.

At the Earthbound residency, the Fattened Caf usually serves between 200 to 250 plates, and the word is getting out at the January pop-up, the couple sold out in less than two hours. “We saw Filipinos come from all over St. Louis," Lopez-Young says.

click to enlarge Barbecued meat and rice are a staple dish at the Fattened Caf. - COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • Barbecued meat and rice are a staple dish at the Fattened Caf.

The menu changes monthly, but the one constant is the barbecued pork on a stick and sides made using recipes from Lopez-Young's grandmother. These dishes range from pickled papaya and pickled cucumbers to steamed rice with garlic chips, pancit, eggplant salad and salted duck eggs.

In January the pop-up served char-grilled pork belly marinated in locally made Filipino-style vinegar and vegan eggplant adobo. The menu is both adventurous and familiar, but the couple do plan to push the envelope.

“St. Louis is full of adventurous eaters pig ears and chicken feet don't scare them. With that openness, we plan to bring more authentic dishes as time goes on,” Lopez-Young says.

The couple are very passionate about south city and Cherokee Street, and if the long lines for their pop-ups are any indication, the feeling is mutual. And besides, as Lopez-Young adds, the setting inside Earthbound means that “there's really great beer to enjoy while they wait."

“We enjoy the space and the community so much; it makes people feel like they are all in it together,” Lopez-Young says.

click to enlarge A selection of the Filipino street-food eats at the Fattened Caf pop-up. - COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • A selection of the Filipino street-food eats at the Fattened Caf pop-up.

click to enlarge More eats served at the pop-up concept. - COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • COURTESY DARREN YOUNG AND CHARLENE LOPEZ-YOUNG
  • More eats served at the pop-up concept.

For more information on future pop-ups, follow the Fattened Caf on Instagram or Facebook.
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